Do you care about the Susquehanna River? Tell the SRBC.
Actually, I know that many of you do care about the Susquehanna River because you showed us your support when we named it America’s Most Endangered River of 2011. You’ll recall that the Susquehanna earned this unfortunate distinction due to the threat of rapid natural gas development in the watershed. If you don’t live in the watershed, you might be wondering what has been happening in the past few months.
In July, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) issued a ban on water withdrawals at 41 locations throughout the basin due to drought conditions. The flow of the river in those places had dropped so low that operators were instructed to stop taking water out of the river. Most of the suspended withdrawals were related to water for fracking operations.
Then last week the SRBC issued draft regulations that will make it easier for drillers to obtain permits for natural gas development. This is unfortunate, as the SRBC still has not addressed any of the concerns that we highlighted in our Most Endangered Rivers report. The Commission continues to ignore their responsibility to protect the waters of the Susquehanna from contamination associated with natural gas extraction.
We need your help to tell the Commissioners that it is their duty to protect all of the users of this important river, including residents, farmers, tourists, fish, and wildlife. They must be held accountable by everyone, not just the drilling companies.
SRBC is taking written comments on its proposed rules until August 23. Use the points below to craft your own personalized email or letter. Submit it to:
Richard A. Cairo
Susquehanna River Basin Commission
1721 N. Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102-2391
Email: [email protected]
If you don’t have time for full comments, just email [email protected] right away and say that the public comment period on the proposed rules should be extended another 30 days—just like many individuals and organizations, including American Rivers, have asked. We need more time to review and understand these regulations in order to provide the most complete input to the Commission.
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS
- The SRBC has allowed gas drilling to accelerate across the Susquehanna basin without instituting strong protections or assessing the cumulative impacts of expanded natural gas drilling over time.
- The proposed rules would expedite more permits through an “approval by rule” process and use this process for new types of natural gas projects. While recycling of fracking wastewater should be encouraged, it should not be approved in bulk. Having a fuller approval process is still necessary due to the lack of adequate state-level requirements that would ensure isolation of wastewater from the basin’s surface and groundwater resources.
- The proposed rules do not encourage public participation in commenting on new gas development projects in the Susquehanna basin. This proposal would greatly weaken public scrutiny and input, including by those directly impacted by well development, water withdrawals, and wastewater transport and disposal.
- The Commission wants to make permits issued through “approval by rule” good for 15 years (instead of the current 5). Gas companies use a lot of water, produce large amounts of wastewater, and pose a high risk of spills and contamination— making it critical to review permits and operator practices more frequently.
- The Commission must conduct individual review of the transport of toxic flowback and wastewater from one well to another whenever there’s a risk of contamination to the basin—not just make it easier to do so.